Saturday, February 08, 2014

#Rhizo14 Question: Is Reading Making us Stupid?

The question prompt for this weeks #rhizo14 course led me to reconsider ideas I had read (ironic) in the past.

In his book, The Hidden Power of Electronic Communication, Shane Hipps quotes this story shared by Socrates from Plato’s The Phaedrus:

Socrates: “Now in those days the god Thamus was the king of the whole country of Egypt; and he dwelt in that great city of Upper Egypt which the Hellenes call Egyptian Thebes. To him came Theuth and showed his inventions, desiring that the other Egyptians might be allowed to have the benefit of them; he enumerated them, and Thamus enquired about their several uses, and praised some of them and censured others, as he approved or disapproved of them. It would take a long time to repeat all that Thamus said to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts.

But when they came to letters, This, said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit. Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.”

In a similar vein, Historian and futurist Leonard Sweet talks about the shift in our society from Gutenberg to Google, from a world of print to a world of images.

So the question Dave asks in #rhizo14 this week is one that others have considered as well. It appears that like it or not, society is shifting away from print and embracing a more image-rich and connected culture. In fact, in Post-Modern Pilgrims, his book from 2000, Sweet proposes education that is EPIC: Experiential, Participatory, Image-Rich, and Connected (sounds very rhizomatic to me).

So what are some of the implications more EPIC educational processes?

As instructors we need to consider how we engage students across a wide variety of platforms. Earlier this week the Horizon Report came out. One of the Mid-range trends the study identified was a “Shift from Students as Consumers to Students as Creators.” This section goes on to discuss how educators can embrace students creating content through a variety of means: video, web, etc. Writing a standard term-paper was not on the list!

As an of an educator who “gets” this, I’ve been very impressed by Amy Burvall, a teacher in Hawaii. As one can see from her site, Amy engages her students on a wide variety of levels and through a wide variety of mediums.

How can those of us in #rhizo14 leverage our connectedness to help each other do the same?